The Rev. Khleber M. Van Zandt V

This past Thursday, April 22nd, was Earth Day.

If you count yourself as a person of faith, did you run out and hug a tree? Did you make a personal commitment to do better at recycling? Or is this whole environmental thing something you feel free to ignore?

My own faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism, has as its 7th Principle that as people of faith we are to “affirm and promote the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.” Bottom line: This means we ought to pay attention to caring for Creation each and every day, but most especially on a day like Earth Day.

I try hard to follow that instruction in my own life. Whenever I’m able to pull my head out of the to-do list and look around, I find myself reveling in the natural world.

Just in my own backyard here in Venice, I can look out and see sandhill cranes, wood storks and blue heron; ibis, egrets and ducks; racoons, possums, turtles — even an alligator or two sunning themselves on the banks of the pond.

What’s not to love?

And it all makes me wonder if my own deeply felt longing for a connection to the natural world is a universal human trait.

I mean, think about it: If you suddenly found yourself sitting atop Mount Everest, would your response likely be, “Well, it’s not much of a view”?

Or could you stand at the base of a massive 1,000-to-2,000-year-old Sierra redwood, look up and say, “Aw, that’s no big deal”?

I couldn’t. Because nature is too amazing, too wonderful, too astounding, too obviously surpassing the ability of our language to describe it.

Not that we haven’t tried.

The ancient author of the Psalms often extolled the wonders of Creation in his writings. One good example is Psalm 104; here’s an abridged reading of that sacred hymn:

“O Lord my God, you are clothed with honor and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment. You make springs gush forth in the valleys and flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal. By the streams the birds of the air live and sing among the branches.

“From your lofty abode you water the mountains and satisfy the earth with the fruit of your work. You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use to bring forth food from the earth, and bread to strengthen the human heart.

“You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. When the sun rises, they withdraw and lie down in their dens.

“O Lord, the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. Bless the Lord, O my soul.”

For me, as a person of faith, the natural world naturally points a person toward faithful living. And as the sacred scripture of many faiths teaches, it’s our duty to care for our environment and for that “interdependent web of all Creation of which we are a part.”

See you in church or synagogue or mosque.

The Rev. Khleber M. Van Zandt V is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice and on the board of the Venice Interfaith Community Association.


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